Six Strategic Steps in… Closing Your Project
Benjamin Franklin once joked, “You may delay, but time will not!” Time and again, the experience of my students illustrates that one of the most important steps in moving forward in project management is an ability to “close” previous projects: completely, effectively and on time
In many cases, I see my colleagues and students enthusiastically take on new projects by quickly moving away from their old projects without properly ending them. However, projects that are not completed with strategic considerations and planning in mind may drag down new projects in many different ways.
Here are six of the steps you can follow to close your projects effectively.
Preparing a checklist for your work
Murphy’s law states, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong!” In order to avoid a train of challenges arriving during the last stage of your project, it is important to develop a final checklist. Preparing the closeout checklist for your work with an eye to completing all your contractual and project obligations with a very clear deadline will help you to tie up all the loose ends and bypass loopholes and hiccups. The 3-W approach can be very helpful for working on your checklist, as you list the three major W-questions: What [what the most strategically important objectives of the project were and what you achieved to address these], Where [where were the most pressing challenges and if you addressed all of them], and When [when you should achieve your major benchmarks in working on your project and if you realized all your deliverables].
Identifying your target audience
It is not enough that you and your team members know about ending the project and delivering the final product (be it a business plan, a smart phone app, college assignment or industrial prototype, etc.). From the long-term planning perspective, it is imperative that all your partners, clients, stakeholders, investors and supporters know about the successful closure of the project and about your achievements along the way. Nobody wants an angry customer or especially an investor to pop up at the last moment, unaware that you have already closed the project but forgot to inform her/him and thus technically did not complete all requirements.
Developing your communication strategy and choosing communication tools
In the information century, it is essential that your message about your project and your project’s product(s) don’t get lost among other messages, press releases and presentations. Therefore, you should choose your communication strategy and communication tools wisely so that more people, potential stakeholders and investors and especially your friends and colleagues know about the successful completion of the project and delivered results. And it is certainly important to communicate the information about outcomes as per your contractual obligations, especially if there is a publicity requirement in your project.
Reporting your project B2B
Throughout our lives, we handle many projects and move from one project to another, thus it is important to make a smooth and appropriate transition from one project to the next. Effective project managers always personally present the main achievements of their completed project to all their current and potential partners and clients in a public event or even a series of public events. Paradoxically, the old traditional ways of B2B personalized presentations or lately even online B2B presentations have not gone out of fashion. Of course, projects might be small or large, but in every case, there is a need to develop and calibrate an appropriate scope, depth and level of your presentation.
Presenting your project in cyberspace
The rise of Information Communication Technologies (ICT), gadgets, apps, social media and lately the impact of restrictions related to the global pandemic, require us to rethink our relations with cyberspace. As more and more people search for and find information online, it is essential to identify proper databases, apps, websites or other platforms to present and store the outcomes of your projects in cyberspace. Currently cyberspace offers many opportunities from professionally run databases and data banks related to different fields to personal professional pages (e.g., LinkedIn, ResearchGate, etc.) where you can store information, reports and research data about past and present projects.
Conducting post-project evaluation and linking to life after the project
Every textbook on project management highlights the importance of post-mortem evaluations. This step can take many forms – from formal reports, to memos on lessons learned and even step-by-step evaluation of every failure or mistake, depending on the duration and scale of your project. With your final evaluation, it is important to formally and publicly close your project by celebrating with a grand party or a formal workshop. This is not only an opportunity to open a bottle of champagne, but also to liven up the celebration with informal discussions with colleagues and friends about the highlights of the project, and to joke down possible tensions remaining after the end of the work. “Pessimism never won any battle,” Dwight Eisenhower famously said. Thus, even if your project faced many challenges and problems you should focus on the bright side of your experience in the project, creating links to life after this project or transitioning to the next ones.